Illicit Diamonds and Conflicts

Illicit Diamonds and Conflicts

July 21,2000

The United States has spearheaded a number of initiatives to curb the trade in illicit diamonds that fuels many African conflicts and humanitarian crises -- particularly in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

During the last year, the United States and other members of the G-8 have made headway in engaging the diamond industry, diamond-producing states and other members of the international community to address this problem.

The Clinton-Gore Administration has been supportive of a variety of measures to tighten global marketing practices and to build capacity to manage the diamond sector in diamond-producing states. At the same time, the U.S. has worked hard to ensure that efforts to address conflict diamonds not harm the interests of legitimate diamond-producing states.

In particular:

+The Clinton-Gore Administration has actively supported the efforts of the UN Experts Panel on UNITA sanctions. The panel seeks to strengthen the UN Security Council sanctions on diamonds from UNITA-held areas of Angola and recent Security Council actions on conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone;

+The United State joined other members of the U.N. Security Council in passing resolution 1306 designed to prohibit trade in diamonds from Sierra Leone without a valid government certificate.

+The U.S. and the U.K. met with diamond authorities in Gaborone, Botswana, reinforcing support for the twin goals of defining pragmatic measures while taking special care to do no harm to the legitimate diamond trade;

+In October 1999, the State Department sponsored an international conference in Washington focusing on the economies of war in Angola, Congo and Sierra Leone and initiated a direct dialogue with diamond officials from Botswana and Angola;

+In March, 2000, the State Department sponsored a planning exercise with the Government of Sierra Leone and diamond industry leaders to develop a management plan for the country's diamond resources;

+In May 2000, at a conference on illicit diamonds in Kimberly, South Africa, African diamond producers, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium and De Beers, among others, reached agreement in principle on:

++The importance of establishing a global certification scheme for diamonds;

++The need for a formal code of conduct to govern the practices of the industry, of diamond-producing states and of marketing centers;

++The creation of an independent monitoring agency to supervise the implementation of the certification scheme and the code of conduct;

++The establishment of a working group to make recommendations on specific mechanisms for implementing these agreements.

+In February 2000, De Beers, the international diamond marketing corporation and the world's largest diamond mining operation, announced that it would stop purchasing diamonds from conflict zones in Africa -- an important step toward limiting the market for illicit diamonds in Europe, Japan and the United States.

+As a result of the original U.S.-U.K. initiative, the World Diamond Congress on July 19 responded with a widely reported effort to establish a "chain of warranties" to curb and end the trade in illicit diamonds.

The U.S. and the U.K. have led the work of the group of experts to recommend a series of steps on illicit diamonds endorsed by the G-8 Foreign Ministers at Miyazaki on June 13 and called for the issue of conflict diamonds to be included on the agenda for the G-8 meeting in Okinawa as part of an initiative on conflict prevention.

In Okinawa, the G-8 expressed special concern that the proceeds from the illicit trade in diamonds have contributed to aggravating armed conflict and humanitarian crises, particularly in Africa. The G-8 therefore called for an international conference to consider practical approaches to breaking the link between the illicit trade in diamonds and armed conflict, including consideration of an international agreement on certification for rough diamonds.


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